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Is Manchester United’s ownership any better than Manchester City’s?

Yes, but journalists apparently find that very confusing because they are both bad.

Al Ain v Manchester City
Has money.
Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

Since the recent allegations in Der Spiegel that Manchester City have cooking the books in precisely the way that everyone thought that they were cooking the books, there have been some defences put forward by incompetent and probably deliberately wrong journalists.

One defence, from Stuart Brennan, has been that he is not an accountant and therefore has no responsibility or ability to look over the balance sheet, or any reports of a financial nature. Well, that is plainly hot bee ess. Any journalists who do not understand accounting or fraud might not be able to write a story by themselves, but it is clearly easy enough to just ring up an accountant or ask a colleague for assistance. The numbers are - both the official and recently reported ones - easy to understand for most people with an interest.

Another, weirder defence, was put forward by Telegraph writer and Alex Ferguson ghostwriter, Paul Hayward. His essential argument was that, well, corruption might be a bad thing indeed, but was it not also bad when Manchester United were taken over by a leveraged buyout and then signed lots of commercial deals.

It’s worth noting that none of those objections came from Hayward when he was writing Ferguson’s last error-strewn memoir. It’s also worth noting that none of the deals that United reported are misrepresented or deliberately overegged (as far as we are told - let’s remember there’s no reason to think United won’t eventually end up with a Der Spiegel feature of their own about something).

Are United’s owners better than City’s? Well, they don’t seem to have broken the rules by such an obvious degree, and they don’t run a country built on antisemitism, human rights abuse, and modern day slavery. So it appears to be a fairly obvious conclusion that not only are the two circumstances incomparable, but those making the comparison are ignoring more serious problems. But if you want to write an article saying that the Glazers are bad, and then one explaining why a set of crooks might be a set of crooks, then it would be a lot better than what usually ends up in the football pages.